More than a century after his birth in the Argentine city of Balcarce, Juan-Manuel Fangio remains one of the most revered names in motorsports. Between 1951 and 1957, Fangio won an astounding five World Championships—more than any other Formula One driver until Michael Schumacher captured his sixth title in 2003.
Fangio raced and won for Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari, but many consider his brief stint with Mercedes-Benz in 1954-55 the high point of his career. In Fangio & Mercedes-Benz: Alliance of the Best, Hartmut Lehbrink offers a fresh perspective on the life of a legend and his unique partnership with the great German marque. Originally published in Germany to commemorate Fangio’s centennial in 2011, this beautifully produced book includes recollections of Fangio from his friends, family, and such fellow drivers as Tony Brooks, Hans Herrmann, Stirling Moss, and Jackie Stewart. The revealing and informative text is presented in German and English, and is illustrated with a wealth of previously unpublished photographs from the Daimler archives.
The racing alliance between Fangio and Mercedes-Benz would be brief, but stunningly effective. Between July 1954 and October 1955 he appeared in 20 races as a factory driver, winning 11 of them. After starting the 1954 F1 season with victories in Argentina and Belgium as a guest driver for Maserati, Fangio marked the long-awaited return of Mercedes to grand prix racing with an overwhelming win in France aboard the streamlined, technically advanced Mercedes W 196. Three more wins would follow, along with a second world championship. The next year saw Mercedes introduce its 300 SLR sports car, which Fangio drove to two non-championship wins in Germany and Sweden, as well as second-place finishes behind new teammate Stirling Moss at the Mille Miglia, Tourist Trophy, and Targa Florio. In Formula One the W 196 continued to dominate, allowing Fangio to successfully defend his title with another four victories.
But 1955 was also marked by tragedy at Le Mans, where Mercedes-Benz withdrew from the 24-hour race after one of its drivers and scores of spectators were killed in an explosive accident on the pit straight. The incident prompted the cancellation of many races, as well as Mercedes-Benz’s decision to end its racing program.
In the following years Fangio would go on to more wins and championships with Ferrari and Maserati, but his ties with Mercedes remained strong. He continued to represent the company as a dealer in Argentina and as an ambassador and celebrity all over the world.
Fangio & Mercedes-Benz tells the story of El Maestro’s Mercedes period through vivid accounts of key races, profiles of his teammates and rivals, and detailed technical descriptions of the sophisticated and durable W 196 and 300 SLR cars. It also takes a broader look at it subject’s life in chapters covering Fangio’s early years as national champion in Argentina, his first forays into Formula One, and his post-Mercedes career and retirement. The book also features lengthy reminiscences of Fangio from people who knew him during nearly every phase of his long and varied life. This remarkable group includes such contemporaries as Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, and Froilan Gonzalez, as well as later driving legends like Hans Herrmann and Jackie Stewart. But there are also stories from family members, personal friends, business associates, and even one of the Cuban guerillas who briefly held Fangio hostage during a sports-car race in 1958.
These contributions brilliantly complement Hartmut Lehbrink’s engaging and authoritative text—as do the hundreds of rare photographs of Fangio in action at the track, behind the scenes at Mercedes, and at home in Argentina. There are also illustrations of cars and drivers, and facsimiles of key documents such as Fangio’s original contract with Mercedes-Benz.
Fangio & Mercedes-Benz: Alliance of the Best is a unique portrait of a life like no other, and a fitting tribute to two of the greatest names in racing history.